Dragon Ball Xenoverse Review

Dragon Ball Xenoverse is something of a mixed bag. Developed by Dimps, the creators of what I pretty much regard to be the greatest Dragon Ball Z game ever: Budokai 3, I had high expectations for Xenoverse. In some ways it’s a good Dragon Ball Z. With heavy RPG elements, the ability to create and customise your own character, and a storyline that doesn’t just retread over old ground, but puts a new spin on things due to time travel shenanigans, there’s much about Xenoverse to appeal to Dragon Ball Z fans. Unfortunately, the game suffers from a highly basic combat system and a lack of polish that prevents the game from becoming truly great.

Dragon Ball Xenoverse, rather than just letting you play as familiar heroes in another recap of the storyline, offers a rather refreshing change. Your player created character; of which you can make Humans, Saiyans, Namekians, as well as Majin Buu’s and Frieza’s races, has been summoned by Future Trunks to join the Time Patrol. Commanded by the Supreme Kai of Time, the Time Patrol are an elite group of fighters responsible for travelling through time and ensuring that history follows its correct path. When mysterious new villains start interfering with Dragon Ball Z history and tipping the scales so that the villains begin to win, your character is tasked with stopping them, restoring history, and preventing the collapse of the universe. The result, while still largely following the events of Dragon Ball Z, is a novel change of pace, and offers some tantalising glimpses into some what if scenarios.

For a number of reasons, I’d describe Xenoverse as more an RPG with a fighting game style combat system, rather than a fighting game that has RPG elements. Similar, but distinctly different. I imagine that Xenoverse was more than a little inspired by the Asia only MMORPG Dragon Ball Online. Aside from sharing a similar time travel storyline, Xenoverse has character creation, level progression with the allocation of stat points, buying equipment and costumes to kit out and boost your stats; and collecting skills and techniques for your character to use. It’s based around a hub city that you can roam around, buy things, interact with other online players, and go on single player and cooperative multiplayer “Parallel” quests, which are sidequests that offer experience, money, equipment and skills to unlock. Indeed, there’s not even a main menu from which you can select story mode, or quick battle, or tournament mode, instead it’s all operated out of Toki-Toki City, the storyline’s main hub.

As an RPG, Xenoverse works quite well. There’s something immensely satisfying as a Dragon Ball Z fan to be able to create your own character, customise them with elaborate costumes and skills from the main series, and then levelling them up to become ever more powerful, as you travel through time and punch villains in the face. It’s some fanfiction style wish fulfilment stuff, and I mean that in the best way possible. Creating my own Saiyan character, naming him, training under Krillin, Piccolo, and Vegeta, equipping him with the Destructo Disk and Galick Gun, unlocking Super Saiyan mode and making him one of the strongest fighter’s in the Universe? Like I said: immensely satisfying as a Dragon Ball Z fan.

It’s highly unfortunate then, that the game is let down so much by the fighting system. It’s disappointingly simplistic. Fights are repetitive and lack finesse. Rush them, smack them around and then either knock them to the ground or hit them flying. Or, hit them with a special attack once you accumulate enough energy to use them. The defensive options are also rather limited, particularly against multiple opponents, which makes more than a few fights in this game unfair. Being rushed at by multiple enemies, with others blindsiding you, with a camera that often doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing, is an exercise in frustration. Coupled together with some truly drastic difficulty spikes, the rather loose and unbalanced combat system means that side quests and level grinding are hugely necessary. There’s only so much you can accomplish with your own skill at the game. Now, granted that Xenoverse is very much like an RPG, that’s fine. All RPG’s require some side questing for fun and profit. The only problem is that the poor combat means that there’s often little fun to be had as you spend hours grinding for stat points and trying to amass a collection of skills that’ll actually be useful in whatever fight you’re currently stuck at.

The game looks and sounds quintessentially Dragon Ball Z, with an art and sound direction that captures the feel of the original series. There are some decidedly spotty parts in the presentation of the game that lack polish though. Mistranslations, the wrong name being attributed to dialogue bubbles, and other minor problems are apparent, occasionally baffling, and sometimes unintentionally hilarious for their mistakes.

Dragon Ball Xenoverse remains one of the most exciting Dragon Ball games I’ve played in years. With the ability to create and customise your own character, RPG style progression, and a new and interesting time travel storyline, there’s plenty of appeal for the Dragon Ball Z fan. Unfortunately, the simplistic and repetitive fighting mechanics drag down the whole experience, making Xenoverse a far better role playing game than a fighting game.

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